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Conservation Genetics of the Endangered Shasta crayfish, Pacifastacus fortis

Studying California's only native and endemic species of crayfish. 

Conservation Genetics of the Endangered Shasta crayfish, Pacifastacus fortis

Background and Significance

The Shasta crayfish, endemic to the Pit River in Shasta County, California, is threatened by habitat loss due to dams and competition with the invasive signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus). A major conservation goal for the Shasta crayfish is to protect the species’

remaining genetic diversity so it can adapt to environmental changes over time. Previous work in our lab identified varying levels of genetic diversity and significant genetic structure amongst

the last remaining Shasta crayfish populations.

However, there was one portion of the Shasta crayfish range, Rising River, that could not be included in the original study because it was located on private land and landowners would not allow access. In 2022, access was finally granted so Rising River Shasta crayfish could be sampled for genetic study. In this project, starting in October 2023, we will analyze samples from Rising River Shasta crayfish, estimate their genetic diversity, and determine their

relationship to other populations in the species’ range. The species genetic management plan will be updated with this new information and the potential of the Rising River population to be used in conservation aquaculture will be evaluated. Also as part of this project, we will test several different tissue sampling methods to identify one that is least harmful to the species while yielding sufficient DNA for genetic analysis.


PhD student Mary Badger will be leading this study, in collaboration with Dr. Maria Ellis and colleagues from Spring Rivers Ecological Sciences and Dr. Jessica Petersen from the University of Nebraska Lincoln. Funding is provided by the Spring Rivers Foundation.

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